Dialogue refers to conversation between characters. Dialogue is a style in literature that enriches and makes the work interesting because it makes it possible for to get first hand information.
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In P.J. Gibson’s play, long time since Yesterday, she richly used dialogue. The dialogue was initially between two young girls, Laveer and Janeen and later on at the funeral of the latter by the campus friends. An analysis of dialogue in this play is significant in character development of the protagonist and other characters and bringing out of main themes of love, depression and suicide.
At the beginning of the play, scene 1 dialogue was between young Laveer and young Janeen. Laveer was more creative from a young age. She wanted to sing another song which she believed was better than what they were both singing. She started singing a song, “Put your foot on the rock. Swooooo ah swooooo ah…and let the boys fill your….Swooooo ah…Don’t be afraid… Cause momma did the same” (Gibson 5-6).
This was significant in that it created suspense in the story. As a reader, one is eager to know what they became. From the excerp, we are not surprised when we find that Janeen got married to one man, while Laveer got several affairs and never settled for any marriage even in her late thirties.
Dialogue between Laveer and Janeen helped in development of the main characters, Laveer and Janeen. Laveer was very informed at her age of eleven and knew a lot about sex while Janeen was reserved and feared to talk about it. From their conversation we learnt that Janeen’s parents were very strict and she would probably be punished if she was found reading a romantic book.
After Laveer insisted that Janeen could take the so called nasty book home, Janeen’s timidity was seen as she believed in what her grandfather had said. Her grandfather had said that people who were afraid did not have backbone or straight legs and she believed that she was that kind of a person. Janeen’s character continued even in her adulthood.
She was afraid to talk about real issues in life. She believed what other people said about her. This was the main reason she committed suicide. She could easily suffer marital problems and think that some things were not supposed to be talked about. If only she was able to share and talk out what she felt, she could have been saved from the deadly act.
Laveer’s boldness and courageous nature was brought out through the dialogue. She did not care much about what her mother would do if she found out that she was reading the nasty book. She believed that even her mother went through the same age, stage and feelings and could not blame her for her actions. From her words, she was very clear on what she wanted to become, a painter and an artist. She desired to become famous and thought that famous people got tragedies and that she was going to die at twenty one years of age.
In another instance, Laveer asked Janeen what was great about being a virgin and never kissed. She also said it openly that she wanted to kiss somebody. “I want to stick my tongue in…Darrel Rivers mouth and let him put his hands right here” (Gibson 12). This dialogue was significant in that it developed the characters of the two girls. Janeen was naive while Laveer was sophisticated. Laveer was highly principled and did what she believed in. Janeen could be easily influenced by the people around her or the environment.
Laveer was wise and had a culture of reading all types of books and that was why she asked her friend what dictionaries were meant for. She also responded sensibly when Janeen said that she would like to become a lady of leisure. Janeen did not know the meaning of lady of leisure and seemed she had misunderstood the term which she had overheard in a certain conversation (Gibson 9).
In the second scene, old classmates had gone for Janeen’s Funeral. Janeen had committed suicide and on their meeting, they expressed sorrowful emotions. Thelma, Elisa, Babbs, Laveer and Panzi were friends in campus. They were now having a conversation. It included their memorable moments. Their dialogue revealed the past life in campus. Their characters were developed in the dialogue.
Theme of marriage was brought out by the dialogue. Four of these women were not married in their late thirties. Alisa was the only married woman. She said that having babies opened her eyes to the need for pre-school environment for the working mother. She was a director of a pre-school program. Babbs in contrast expressed a great burden in taking care of children. She said, “Count me out. The thought of feedings and diaper changes…Ooooooo” (Gibson 21).
At the age of 39, Thelma, though a medical doctor did not appreciate herself and did not believe that she was beautiful. She said that when God was giving out beauty, she was somewhere in the line getting seconds on brains. Babbs was emotional because of Thelm’s thoughts that she did not love the way she was created and did not appreciate her beauty (Gibson 21). In contrast, to what she advised Thelm, Babbs feelings towards herself were revealed in a dialogue.
Later on Babbs talked in a resigned tone. Her beauty had all been wasted in men. “It’s so middle of the road, not connected to anything, close enough to everything….It shits. Life shits…These eyes, this hair, this coloring…the calling card” (Gibson 36). She thought that the beauty she had had caused her to become like a prostitute.
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She went on and introduced the theme of racism and sex. She revealed her personal life and said that in Minneapolis she was a safe route. White men who wanted a black woman, black men who wanted a white woman or corporations who wanted to fill a quota were going to her.
From the dialogue, we understand that Panzi, Janeen and Laveer had a close relationship. Though they claimed to have been Janeen’s close friends, they never made any effort to keep in touch. After campus everyone minded her own business. Janeen’s separation from her friends was one cause psychological stress. She became more vulnerable to depression. From the dialogue the kind of friendship between the three characters is revealed. She trusted her friends so much, so that when they failed her, she succumbed to suicide.
Panzi’s jealous nature was seen when she tried to accuse Laveer with her lies. She said, “Laveer was never Janeen’s friend” (Gibson 22). She was bitter and angry because she was not given a chance by Janeen’s family to participate in Janeen funeral arrangements. Panzi tried to outdo Laveer in showing how much she was close to Janeen.
“I have stood by Janeen since graduation, me. I was her maid of honor…I…Laveer wasn’t ever invited to the wedding” (Gibson 23). Alisa also helped us to understand the past close relationship between Janeen, Panzi and Laveer. She said, “Ah ah ah…Now you, Janeen and Panzi were like three little peas in a pod in those days” (Gibson 41).
The theme of love and marriage was brought out through dialogue. Life in marriage had not been a bed of roses for Babbs. She had been married by Frank. Theme of divorce comes out in her dialogue. She was at that time divorced by Frank who married just after, on the same day they divorced. Her tone revealed regret because she said that it was bad for them they could not continue staying in Mexico where she thought that the romance with her husband could have continued (Gibson 24).
Through dialogue, the writer explored the theme of depression and suicide. Through dialogue we know that the friends were not meeting for a party but to bury one of their friends who had committed suicide. Janeen, the least expected person to commit any crime had given up and committed suicide. Babbs spoke out and said that she believed that she could commit suicide but she never thought that Janeen would ever commit suicide.
Through dialogue Babbs revealed that she had attempted to commit suicide two weeks before Janeen’s funeral. All the friends were surprised and Alisa asked, “What is happening with us?” (Gibson 35). Depression was the cause of the tragedy of Janeen’s death. Alisa was concerned that all the ladies at their thirties were complaining. Most complains came as a result of marital problems. Alisa also insisted that when the expected failed to happen one was supposed to do the best for what they got.
Characters in the play were developed through dialogue. The Dialogue was also useful in bringing out themes of love, marriage, divorce, depression, suicide and racism in the play. The dialogue was invaluable in bringing out of main themes of love, depression and suicide. Friend’s failure was what one a major cause of Janeen’s suicide.
Gibson, Patricia. Long Time Since Yesterday. New York: Cengage. Print.